Blue White Illustrated

May 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 46 of 67

M A Y 2 0 2 3 47 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M Nebraska and Maryland on the road and Wisconsin in overtime at the BJC. Fol- lowing the team's midwinter swoon, the possibility that PSU would lose Shrews- berry to another school seemed to di- minish. Likewise, the urgency behind efforts to work out a contract extension also ebbed. But then Penn State started winning again. The Nittany Lions won five of their final six games to close the regular season with a 10-10 mark in the Big Ten and a 19- 12 record overall. At the Big Ten Tourna- ment, they won three in a row to reach the championship game for only the second time ever. Attention continued to build around Shrewsberry as a strong coaching candi- date — not just for Notre Dame's vacancy, but nationally as well. All the while, Penn State remained confident that a deal would be reached to retain him. Kraft had even scheduled a board of trustees com- pensation committee meeting for the day before the start of the Big Ten Tourna- ment. On March 13, Penn State held an all- hands meeting on Zoom that included Shrewsberry and some members of his staff, athletics administrators, NIL lead- ers and donors. The national buzz sur- rounding Shrewsberry was unmistakable, but the message that Penn State needed to be more proactive in its NIL efforts re- ceived a mostly positive reaction. Within the program, however, the sud- den rush to elicit big donations exacer- bated lingering doubts. Why hadn't that push been made before Shrewsberry be- came a hot coaching commodity? Why hadn't the program's needs been priori- tized? Shrewsberry had said in December that Penn State needed to decide what kind of basketball program it wanted. If it wanted to continue making strides, he said, it had to provide the necessary support. "If we have a little bit more that we're offering to our guys, or that we're doing for our team in NIL, that top-30 class is probably top 15 in the country. Just one or two more guys," Shrewsberry said. "It's a controversial topic, but it's what college basketball is right now. It's what's going on; it's here. You can not like it, and that's your prerogative, but then you can't come back and complain about the product. I'm never going to complain. We need as much help as we can get. But also, it's your choice." Ultimately, Shrewsberry didn't com- plain. Instead, presented with an oppor- tunity to start fresh, he took it. Back at Penn State, the improvements Shrewsberry had sought are belatedly being made, but they will now need to be directed toward a new leader for the program. ■ THREE STARS 1. Jalen Pickett | Sr.+ | G Penn State's magical run to the Big Ten Tour- nament final and the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament wouldn't have happened without Pickett. A leader in every sense, Pickett started all 37 games and finished with team-high averages in scoring (17.7), rebounds (7.4), assists (6.6) and minutes (36.6). It was a comprehensive effort that extended well beyond the stat page. Pickett was the lifeblood of this Nittany Lion team on and off the court, and he was saluted for his ef- forts, earning consensus All-America status. 2. Seth Lundy | Sr. | G/F Although eligible to return for a fifth and final season of college basketball, Lundy announced after the NCAA Tournament that he planned to pursue an NBA career. In his final college season, he started 36 of Penn State's 37 games, finishing with career-high averages of 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds, along with the best full-season shoot- ing percentage of his four years at PSU (45.0). A model of consistency, Lundy delivered double- figure scoring totals in 31 games. 3. Andrew Funk | Sr.+ | G The Bucknell transfer made the most of his lone season at Penn State. Funk finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.5 points per game, and he led the Nittany Lions in three-point attempts (272), makes (112) and conversion rate (41.2 percent). His bonkers night against Texas A&M in the opening round of the NCAA Tourna- ment — 27 points on 8-of-10 shooting from deep — added an exclamation point to a brief but con- sequential PSU career. KEY MOMENT Texas' attack on Penn State's interior was unrelenting. The Nittany Lions were locked in a grind-it-out battle with the Longhorns in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and the pressure wasn't going away. In a departure from what had been expected, Texas' guards were not the ones creating dif- ficulties for PSU. The problem was Dylan Disu. A 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward, Disu spent 31 minutes tormenting the Lions. He set a Texas record for most field goals in an NCAA Tourna- ment game, connecting on 14 of 20 attempts and finishing with a season-high 28 points in a 71-66 Longhorns win that ended Penn State's unprec- edented run of success. BEST HIGHLIGHT Two shots, both from senior guard Camren Wynter, helped lift Penn State to the NCAA Tour- nament. First, Wynter hit a buzzer-beating three- pointer in overtime to lift visiting Penn State past Northwestern 68-65 on March 1. Four days later, the Drexel grad transfer put back Lundy's 3-point miss in the game's final second for a 65-64 win over Maryland in the regular-season finale. "This dude has been as big and special as any- body who's walked through here," coach Micah Shrewsberry said after the win over the Terrapins. BOLD PREDICTION Penn State's top five scorers next season will all come from the transfer portal. Although Mike Rhoades and his staff will hope to reverse transfer portal entries for the team's remaining scholar- ship players, the reality for the Nittany Lions mov- ing forward is going to be a near-total roster reset. — Nate Bauer PENN STATE MEN'S BASKETBALL SUPERLATIVES 2022-23 SEASON After averaging 17.7 points per game, senior guard Jalen Pickett became only the second player in school history to earn second-team or higher All-America notice. Jesse Arnelle was the first in 1954 and '55. PHOTO BY DANIEL ALTHOUSE

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